The average American family of four spends anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 per month on groceries — typically making up the fourth biggest budget priority behind housing, transportation and insurance.
The thing about groceries is that there are so many easy ways to overspend — so if you don’t pay attention, your bills can get a little out of control.
So here’s a look at some common ways people waste money on groceries and how you can save!
10 ways you’re wasting money on groceries
1. Only shopping at one store
Bad idea! If you buy everything at the same store, chances are you’re paying way more than you have to on groceries.
You can save more than 30% simply by changing your routine. Check out non-traditional grocery stores like warehouse clubs, dollar stores, Aldi and Walmart for big savings on food and other items you frequently buy at the grocery store (at a higher price).
- Grocery staples: Check out Aldi and Walmart
- Organic: Try Trader Joe’s instead of Whole Foods
- Bulk items: Warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s
2. Shopping without a list.
I take a list with me every time I go to the store — because if I don’t, I’ll forget the things I need and end up with a basket full of all the random things the grocery stores tempt you with throughout the whole place.
If you have a list, it’s a lot easier to avoid spending extra money. And these apps make it easy for you.
3. Paying with a card.
If your grocery bills are out of control, stick to cash! Figure out what you should be spending on groceries each month and set the cash aside in a ‘groceries only’ envelope. It will help you keep track of your spending and what you have left for the month.
Letting go of cash is a lot more difficult than just swiping a card!
4. Only buying brand name products
We all have certain things we’re particular about, but buying store brands instead of name brands can save you an average of 25%!
Just test a few to figure out which store brand items you like the best!
There are some items at stores like Trader Joe’s that are actually brand-name products repackaged for half the price — no coupon needed!
When it comes to the general debate of store brands vs. name brands, depending on the store, the store brand can be just as good — or even better — than the more expensive name brand.
5. Not buying items on sale
There are two parts to this.
1. I take my list to the store and buy whatever brand is on sale for most items. It’s an easy way to save on the total cost.
2. If something you buy all the time is on sale for a great price — and it will last a while (or you can freeze it) — then buy a few! Or buy a lot!
And this applies to both grocery and non-grocery items. If your family goes through a lot of toilet paper, stock up on your run to Costco instead of getting stuck having to pay more for it at the grocery store around the corner.
6. Not looking around
Have you ever thought about how grocery store aisles are organized? So of course by category, but next time you’re at the store, look at the prices on each shelf.
Walk down the cereal aisle and you’ll probably notice that the shelf placed around eye level of a small child is full of sugary, fun, colorful, name-brand cereal boxes. The shelves right in the middle, where most adults would look, are also full of more expensive, name-brand products.
Then look at the very bottom and the very top — that’s likely where you’ll find generic brands and cheaper prices — on any aisle!
7. Not using coupons
You don’t need a giant binder. There are tons of apps available that allow you to download coupons, offer cash back and a variety of other ways to save! Here’s a list of some to try:
- Ibotta: Provides rebates on a number of retail items, but you’ll find the most savings opportunities at national and regional grocery stores.
- Checkout 51: Features a new list of about 20 offers every Thursday morning. They include rebates on items you don’t normally find coupons for, such as tomatoes, strawberries, and bananas.
- Shopmium: Like Checkout 51, the rebate offers on Shopmium can be redeemed at any store where the products are sold.
- Cellfire.com: Sends coupons directly to your loyalty cards.
- Coupons.com: Add grocery and drugstore coupons to your store loyalty cards and automatically save when you use them at the register.
- Favado.com: Aggregates sales data for your local grocery, drug, and big box stores. Compare and save up to 70% on everyday items.
- GroceryIQ.com: Create and organize grocery lists quickly and easily.
- KeyringApp.com: Digitizes all your loyalty cards and stores them on a smartphone so you never have to fumble for the physical cards again.
- RedLaser.com (Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft) : Barcode and QR code scanner helps you comparison shop millions of purchases.
- SavingStar.com: Get grocery and food coupons, which convert into store savings or actual cash back.
There’s one grocery store that I love, but frankly, it’s overpriced. So I downloaded the app and every few days I scroll through the sales and click the ones I may use. Then when I go to check out, I just enter my phone number and voila — savings.
Read more: These apps find you the best prices
8. Buying all the prepared foods
Yes, it’s convenient, but it’s also a lot more expensive.
These convenience items could be marked up as much as 40%. So if you want to save, avoid the packaged/pre-cut/prepared sandwiches, salads and produce. Instead, buy the ingredients (which will last you longer) separately and cut your fruits and veggies yourself at home.
9. Not buying in bulk
Buying meat in bulk is a great way to help reduce your monthly spending. If your family eats a lot of meat, buy bigger quantities — which will cost you less per pound — and freeze what you don’t eat immediately for later.
You can also ask the person working in the meat department to reduce the size of a certain package you want — if it’s too big or too expensive!
10. Buying non-grocery items at the grocery store
This is when shopping at more than one store can save you big bucks. It may take a little more planning, but buying these items where they’re cheaper is worth it for the savings over time!
Things like health and beauty products, light bulbs, toilet paper, greeting cards, party supplies — don’t buy them at the grocery store! Check out discount retailers like Walmart and the dollar stores, and warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club.
Read more: High quality toilet paper comes cheap!